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Police Union President slammed for factually wrong comments

Dechlan Brennan -

Queensland's minister for Indigenous partnerships has slammed the head of the state's police union for peddling misinformation and "false stereotypes" in an article about the state's path to Treaty on Wednesday.

Writing in the Courier Mail, Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers claimed - without any evidence - that the Treaty process would result in the justice system favouring Indigenous people.

"All police I have spoken to are very worried that the inner-city latte sippers have grabbed control of the law-and-order agenda and now wish to further attack police and water down laws as they affect First Nations offenders through the Truth and Treaty Body," he wrote.

Noting the information presented in the Yoorrook Justice Commission report handed down in September, which called on the Victorian government to "create a presumption in favour of bail for all offences with the exception of murder, terrorism and like offences," Mr Leavers claimed this would allow crime to run wild and go unpunished.

"They are effectively offering a free pass to every rapist, domestic violence abuser, habitual home invader and car thief who tells police they identify as Aboriginal," he said.

"The establishment of the rather euphemistically named Truth and Treaty Body will, as far as I can tell, remind us all on a daily basis how bad all Queenslanders should feel about the First Nations people of this state and that we are all probably racist."

He also stated - again without evidence - that Brisbane would be renamed Meanjin and Treaty, which he labelled "Voice 2:0," would be "a divisive agenda to further segregate our society".

Queensland's minister for treaty, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partnerships, Leeanne Enoch, said officers in the Queensland Police Service (QPS) would be "appalled" by the comments.

"At a time when the Queensland Police Service is grappling with last year's independent review that exposed serious evidence of racism, sexism and misogyny, the head of the Police Union should be focused on working with his members to fix these issues rather than positioning himself as the flag bearer for culture wars in Queensland," she said.

Ms Enoch, a Quandamooka woman who became Queensland's first minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partnerships and the first Indigenous woman elected to Queensland parliament, said the last thing Queensland needed was "divisive rhetoric" that would remind the state of its "darker times."

"There are a lot of good people in the Police Service who would be appalled by the head of their union continuing to peddle false stereotypes using factually incorrect information which does not reflect the Queensland where we all live, work and raise our families," she said.

Gunggari person and the national director at Change the Record, Maggie Munn, said they were "appalled" by the comments, saying it only shows the disdain and "deep-rooted racism he has for First Nations communities."

"I am deeply concerned that Queensland's police force can be led by someone who can so easily equate First Nations communities and the fight for recognition and basic fundamental rights with talk of rape and murder," they said.

"It comes as no surprise that members of Queensland's police force have gotten away with entrenched and systemic racism against our people. I am haunted by the idea that our small children, alone in police watch houses, are subjected to such racism and disdain in their dealings with police.

"The leadership and the culture of the Queensland police force needs an overhaul and accountability."

Queensland Labor minister, Mark Bailey, said on X (formerly Twitter) that Mr Leavers article was "ignorant" and "factually wrong".

"Ian Leavers' ignorant and factually wrong diatribe is an embarrassment to the Qld Police Union. He should be working on rectifying the identified racism, misogyny and sexism in the force to make it an inclusive and lawful workplace," Mr Bailey said.

"A better relationship with First Nations peoples and a full understanding of our history of systematic destruction of First Nations culture via violent dispossession, removal of children from parents and imprisonment intergenerationally over nearly two centuries is not to be feared. Including the role of police in that history."

The QPS has consistently been criticised for its relationship with Indigenous people throughout the state. It was revealed in September that three Police Officers in a Brisbane watch house who joked about "beating and burying" Black people, would keep their jobs.

A QPS spokesperson confirmed at the time that three members will have to undergo "remedial strategies" but would not be fired.

Debbie Killroy from Sisters Inside labelled it a joke, saying, "To just get a talking to and go to some form of training does not address the structural and systemic racism of policing".

Christine Thomas, the co-chair of the QPS First Nations advisory group said last month she "holds great concern that little has changed" since a 2023 inquiry found leadership failings had allowed a culture of sexism, racism, fear and silence to flourish unchecked.

Munn said the latest comments by Mr Leavers was playing politics with children's lives.

"I wish we lived in a world where this kind of fearmongering never got the light of day. Instead, as we have seen in the level of lies and misinformation spread during the referendum, he who shouts loudest and is the most controversial gets given platforms," they said.

"As a society we need to have a long and hard think about how our democracy allows for such vitriol and falsities- its gutter politics at its finest.

"As a proud Gunggari person I appeal to every Queenslander to see Ian Leavers comments for what they really are: a despicable power grab which divides and terrorises our communities. Less than six months ago there was bipartisan support for pathways to treaties, and now First Nations rights are up for a power grab."

The Queensland government has been forced to deny that they are abandoning a Treaty process, after LNP leader David Crisafulli withdrew his party's support from the previous bi-partisan agreement, saying it would only create "further division."

Minister Bailey said last week that "nothing has changed whatsoever".

The Queensland Human Rights Commissioner urged for the process to continue, saying now was not the time for "rash decision making."

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